Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Crucial Traits of Innovators

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Optimism is often dismissed as false hope. But there is also false hopelessness. That’s the attitude that says we can’t defeat poverty and disease. We absolutely can.

The commencement address at Stanford University is a stage for inspiring keynote speeches - Sandra Day O’Connor (2004), Steve Jobs (2005), Oprah Winfrey (2008) and Michael Bloomberg (2013) to name a few. This year, Bill and Melinda Gates took the podium and used the opportunity to talk about the power of optimism. Those who have followed this blog know that’s a topic I’m particularly passionate about and their speech was truly inspiring.

The Gates spoke of how the innovations that truly matter in this world are powered by empathetic optimism. By people who are determined to improve the lives of others, no matter how impossible it might appear on the surface. They refer to big ticket issues like poverty, malaria and AIDS. In essence, human suffering. They contrast the outlook of pessimists who see only a world of increasing inequality and declining opportunity, with those who believe in the power of the human spirit and mind to innovate and make the world better, and ask: ‘who is right?’

The Gates are driven by the heart-breaking scenarios they’ve seen first-hand, and the feelings of inadequacy and helplessness when confronted with suffering on the ground. They know they don’t have all the answers. Not yet anyway. But they believe in the power of optimism and the abilities of future generations to unleash a new wave of creative thinking. If their speech resonated with just a fraction of the audience and helped shape their future decisions, then the world will be winning.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Emoji Cravings

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The digital world will never capture the intimacy of an in person conversation. Chat, email, text, Skype, whatever your online communication preference is, it has emotional limits. You can never truly gauge someone’s emotional state unless you’re in front of them. The nuances of tone and body language are crucial. Then come the eyes. The glisten of joy, or narrowed brow of fury. Unmistakable. They’re not referred to as the window to the soul for nothing.

We all know the danger of trying to read emotion from a text message. More often it reflects our own mental state than the person we’re corresponding with. The brain is a master at convincing us of what we want to believe vs. reality. So trust the Japanese to invent a solution in the form of the emoji – literally meaning picture character. It’s a digital emotion and they are everywhere. There’s even an emoji parody of Game of Thrones.

The good people at DataLab at FiveThirtyEight have nailed down the top 100 most popular emojis on Twitter. I’m sure you can guess what No.1 is. It’s a heart. People love to love. Secondly, they love to be happy (the joy emoji took the bridesmaid slot). Emojis sum us up so succinctly. We crave emotional expression, especially in a digital world. We want to know what someone is feeling, not just what they’re saying.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blood Relations

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In situations of war, messages of peace are usually drowned out. Out of the dire situation in Gaza comes a hopeful message. BBR Saatchi & Saatchi Israel has been vocalizing a message of peace for some years now with their Blood Relations campaign. This week comes another message: “We don’t want you here.” It is deliberately provocative until you realise the voices are from Palestinian and Israeli family members who have lost members of their family in the conflict. BBR have formed the "Parent Circle - Palestinian Israeli Bereaved Families for Peace" and their YouTube short film shows both sides wishing for peace and the ending of the killing and circle of war amongst the people in the region.

The film is currently the most watched and shared video on YouTube Israel and has been covered on Israeli TV, BBC and Sky News and in leading newspapers in Israel, as well as international media such as Fast Company and several communications industry blogs.

Achieving peace involves several practical steps including compromises, and the details of this are best left to politicians. Approaching peace however requires the will of people, and the BBR Saatchi film is a powerful step towards vocalizing the desire from bereaved family members from both sides of the enmity to stop the violence and see the possibilities for a better outcome.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dream Cars

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The High Museum of Art in Atlanta has an exhibition on now through to September 7 called Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas. It’s a fascinating look at the cars we thought we would be driving in the future. There doesn’t appear to be as many engineers throwing out crazy designs like in the past, but here are five automotive features which we’ll probably be seeing in the (not to far) future.
  • Self-driving: Since Google is already working on it it’s only a matter of time. But I see it more as an auto-pilot option. Men, in particular, will always enjoy driving. It’s the feeling of power beneath your foot and gripped in your hands. It’s irreplaceable. More importantly, it’s irresistible.
  • Voice controlled communications: Your voice will unlock the car and start the engine. And it won’t matter whether you’re physically driving or laying back and relaxing, the full suite of comms capabilities will be activated by voice command. Video chat, internet search, movies, the works.
  • Self-repairing panels: Forget those carpark prangs. Advances in materials will enable us to develop new metals that can restore their structure after absorbing impact. Unfortunate for panel beaters, but excellent for the rest of us.
  • Rotating wheels: Attached to flexible axels, wheels will be able to rotate 90 degrees enabling the entire vehicle to be driven sideways. Parallel parking on a whole new level.
  • Hover cars: The amphibious car already exists (thanks Alan Gibbs for nailing this), as does the Hover craft. Wheels will eventually become completely optional.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hunting Creative Leaders

This idea that creatives can’t lead is bogus. The image of creative people as loose cannons, introverted obsessives, or people who “live in their own world” disassociated from the real challenges of life faced by everyday people, is one for the history books. In the Age of Now creative leaders thrive and flourish. We live in a VUCA world and it’s the people who make it Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy and Astounding who are tasked and ready to Win.

Creative leadership is about the possible. It’s about taking charge. Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast. Creative leaders start with language and they invent their own. They create a unique vocabulary that binds the group together. Whatever it is, the story must be founded on shared values to stay credible and relevant. Creativity is noisy and dynamic. It’s also contradictory.

However, creative leaders are not a common breed. You are looking for a hybrid who is both visionary and grounded. A person with one eye on the Now and one eye on the Future. To find them you have to hunt them down – and that’s what Saatchi & Saatchi Bulgaria did when looking for a creative leader for their agency. For an unconventional candidate they knew that an unconventional approach was only fitting, so they created this online test to find that special person. The trick is that you have to finish every part of the test before you are even considered for the role, and let me tell you, it ain’t no walk in the park.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What’s Your 10 Moment?

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With rugby sevens now an Olympic sport, the game is growing rapidly in the US. In New York City, Play Rugby USA organises an annual Rugby Cup and it is going from strength to strength. They have a saying that drives how they operate: ‘What’s your 10 moment?’ And it has nothing to do with Dan Carter. It’s about hitting the impact zone. A 10 moment is when you see a real result from the effort you’ve put in.

For the Play Rugby USA team, it’s seeing kids picking up lessons in teamwork, getting pumped up about nutrition and nailing their events. It’s applicable to anyone, in any role. A 10 moment for me is seeing people be inspired and excited about what lies ahead. What’s yours?